Socializing (also called “small talk”) is usually an important part of business relations in the English language business culture.
It’s when you have informal conversations with colleagues or business partners in the coffee break or other similar situations. ☕
They’re conversations about sport, travelling, food, hobbies and similar general topics.
Most learners say they feel kind of lost and nervous when they need to small talk in English.
Interestingly, they feel more confident using English in their usual business meetings.
But when it’s time for that coffee break with colleagues or business partners, their knees begin to tremble.
- What to talk about?
- How to chat in a casual way?
- How to avoid asking too many questions?
All these are real fears that can erode self-confidence when socializing in English.
But small talk situations should not make you nervous.
Let me explain how to turn them into a great English learning and practice opportunity instead.
To get started building confidence, do this first:
In small talk, learn to be a listener more than a speaker. 💡
A listener who gently guides the conversation with short comments and other communication tools.
This is what I call a “prompting listener”.
- A listener who participates actively, but doesn’t say a lot.
- Instead, it is the speaking partner who speaks more.
- Yet, the conversation feels balanced.
- And, the conversation flows.
Here’s what to do as a prompting listener:
✅ Ask questions. Questions are key, we know. The problem is that feeling nervous can make you fire question after question. Only. Which can make you sound like a pushy journalist. So, you need other tools as well.
✅Learn to blend in some filler words like ahm, wow, really, nice etc. This is very natural in fact. Most people do it in their native language. Just observe yourself next time you are chatting with friends in your 1st language.
✅Spice it with simple echo-type questions. These are unreal questions. They simply repeat some part of the information that the speaker has just said. The effect is: the speaker usually perceives this as interest, and will continue speaking and give more information naturally.
Using a mix of these tools means more speaking time for the other person, and more listening time for you.
More listening time for you = less stress 🙂
- Less stress means a more enjoyable conversation.
- More enjoyable conversations will make you feel more confident.
- Which projects a better image of you.
- Which is important for business.
- After all, business is done between people.
Following a nice coffee break small talk, the next meeting will be filled with more trust and personal touch. 📈
Learn how to become a prompting listener instead of a passive listener.
Listen more than speak until you gradually build confidence in speaking. Give yourself time.
Hope this tip helps to see why making small talk is important and how you can improve yours.
Here’s a short video with a sample conversation that shows how questions, filler words and echo-type questions work in practice.
My content is built on my 20+ years real-life experience as an English language teacher and trainer. I don’t use any AI (artificial intelligence) to create this content. I write it myself. Guaranteed.
Thanks for being a reader!
Do you need better small talk for your business and need help? Feel free to message me for personalized tips.
Connect | Gábor Légrádi | MA, RSA/CTEFLA